24th Mar 2019

EU asked to intervene in crisis in Caucuses

Amid threats of war, the president of Azerbaijan today called on the EU to step up its involvement in solving a 16-year old ethnic and border dispute with Armenia.

During a visit to Brussels, Ilham Aliyev asked the Commission President, Romano Prodi, to help resolve the crisis in the southwestern region of Nagorno-Karabakh that has seen the two countries at loggerheads for more than a decade.

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The territorial dispute has remained unsolved since the majority Armenian population tried to secede after the break up of the Soviet Union.

The ensuing war was thought to have cost 30,000 lives.

Although there has been relative peace since a ceasefire accord was signed in 1994, it has been an uneasy truce and recently tensions have appeared to be on the rise.

Before his visit to Brussels on Tuesday, Mr Aliyev was reported to have remarked that another war with their Caucasian neighbours was a possibility if ongoing talks fail.

In Brussels however he was more conciliatory - just.

"Azerbaijan intends to continue its policy to peaceful resolution of the conflict, but at the same time this resolution must be on the recognised principles of international law, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan", he said.

At the table

Talks are currently being shepherded along by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk group lead by the Russian Federation, the United States and France.

And with six other EU countries participating in the process, there is reluctance on the part of the EU to be seen to be undermining its members.

"We are worried that the peace process is stopped", Mr Prodi said today, before adding, "Clearly we do not want to interfere with the Minsk Group but we are urging and pushing that the Minsk Group has some result".

But the Azeri government now wants a bigger role for the EU, something which has the potential of stepping on the toes of the European members of the Minsk Group.

President Ilayev said, "Of course the Minsk group will also actively continue its activity in finding a resolution, but at the same time Azerbaijan is very strongly interested that other important European organizations; first of all the European Union, would take a more active stand".

And as Brussels recently decided to include Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan in the ‘European Neighbourhood Policy’ - which aims to deepen ties with countries bordering the Union – the Commission may seem to be cautiously edging towards playing a greater role.

But the Commission’s attempts to deepen ties have brought critics.

Mr Aliyev came to power in last October’s elections, replacing his father, amid allegations of widespread election fraud and the EU has been accused of turning a blind eye to the poor human rights situation in the country, because it is seeking to tap into the countries vast oil reserves.

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